As I Lay Dying: Novel Summary: Sections 31-35

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Summary

Section 31 Tull
Tull takes his mule and follows the wagon to the levee where he spies the Bundrens at the river's edge staring in disbelief at the broken bridge. They look at him with great hostility, especially Dewey Dell: "I can feel that girl watching me as if I had made to touch her" (125). Jewel is angry because Tull followed them while Cash attempts to solve the problem, saying the bridge could still be used for some of them to wade across while the others could cross with the wagon downstream where it is shallower. Tull refuses to lend them his mule despite Anse's and Jewel's anger.

Section 32 Darl
As Darl notices Jewel staring angrily at Tull, he remembers the teenage Jewel sleeping consistently during the day while his mother covered for him by making the other children do Jewel's chores. His brothers Darl and Cash felt sure he was seeing a married woman at night and once Cash followed him but wouldn't tell Darl what Jewel was up to. One day, Jewel rode up to the house on the horse he had spent clearing land at night to buy. Anse was angry and Jewel assured him he would pay for the horse's food. Darl also recalls how Addie cried that night while Jewel slept, "hating herself for doing it" (136).

Section 33 Tull
Tull successfully helps Anse, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman to cross the river on the sunken bridge. Tull pays special attention to Vardaman to help him cross safely. Once more, Anse attempts to explain that he is only carrying out his dead wife's request as they walk downstream to meet the wagon: "I know you begrudge it, but she will bless you in heaven" (140).

Section 34 Darl
Darl and Cash drive the wagon to the ford on the river with Jewel who rides on horseback. Soon they spy the others with Tull now safely across the river. They argue about how to proceed and finally Jewel crosses upstream on his horse carrying a rope, while Cash, with Darl next to him, decides to cross in the wagon. A floating log shoots up and upsets the wagon. Darl jumps downstream from the wagon while Jewel struggles with the horse and Cash attempts to hang onto the coffin and his tools. Anse's mules roll up out of the water, "their legs stiffly extended" (149).

Section 35 Vardaman
On the other side of the river, Vardaman observes the coffin falling and runs along the bank screaming at Darl to catch it as he jumps into the water to help Darl. Meanwhile, Darl grabs the coffin but cannot keep it from sinking: "his hands come empty out of the water emptying the water emptying away" (151). Vardaman, whose idea of his mother as a fish is now reinforced, returns to shore.

Analysis
Tull provides a major role in narrating the tale and through him we see once again what a poor excuse for a man Anse really is. He refuses to heed two warnings that the bridge has been washed out. He must see for himself. His only contribution to the work of crossing is his stupid comment: "if it was just up, we could drive across" (124). He waits helplessly, wringing his hands, until someone else does the work. And then he complains about how hard he works. Tull is also leery of Darl. Early on he remarks that Darl thinks too much and now fears the way Darl looks at him. Perhaps he fears having his mind read by Darl. Also, although Tull is important as a reliable narrator, it is Darl who narrates all the important events and thus should be considered the primary narrator.

Jewel's non-stop motion parallels the rest of the family's lethargy. He has the ability to set a goal and achieve it against all odds while the rest of the Bundrens move at the speed of slugs and get nothing done. This should prompt readers to wonder if Jewel is really a Bundren. Recall he is taller than his brothers and despises Anse. Consider also the horse, which is reminiscent of his mother, and thus explains why he loves it so much. Clearly, however, Darl and Cash care for Jewel. Why else would they do his chores and protect his secret despite the evidence that Addie loves Jewel most of all?

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